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Hit-and run driver who killed London cyclist jailed for 11 years

Jail term handed down to Martin Reilly for killing mother-of-two Gao Gao reflects tougher maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving introduced in 2022

A hit-and-run driver who last year killed a mother of two when she was cycling on a street in Hackney, east London, has been jailed for 11 years and three months after admitting causing death by dangerous driving. The length of the prison term handed down reflects a change introduced two years ago in the maximum sentence for the offence.

The victim, 36-year-old Gao Gao, who was associate director of leadership philanthropy at LSE, died in the Royal London Hospital the day after 29-year-old Martin Reilly, crashed into her on Whiston Road on 21 September 2023.

At his sentencing hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday, it emerged that the motorist had a number of previous convictions and was on police bail at the time of the fatal crash, reports the London Evening Standard.

The court heard that despite the weather conditions being wet, he was driving at nearly 50mph on the road, known locally as one used by rat-running drivers and which has a speed limit of 20mph.

Reilly had no insurance and was on the wrong side of the road when he crashed into the cyclist. He fled the scene with his father, who was a passenger in the Nissan Note car, and handed himself into police later.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Caroline English said: “This offence is quite obviously so serious that nothing other than an immediate and substantial custodial sentence can be justified.”

At yesterday’s hearing, defending counsel Daniel Murray said in mitigation that Reilly was genuinely remorseful, telling the court: “He didn’t set out that day to hurt anyone. He has also written a letter expressing his deep sorrow and shame for what has happened.”

He said that the father of six suffered from mental health issues, and that it was likely that he suffered from PTSD after almost being killed in a stabbing four years ago, which may have caused a panic attack while he was driving.

The judge accepted that Reilly’s remorse was “entirely genuine,” but noted that “not a single word” of his supposed mental condition had been raised with a psychiatrist who conducted an assessment of him ahead of the sentencing hearing.

Before passing sentence, Judge English said: “There is nothing I can say, and no sentence that I can pass, that can possibly assuage the enormous impact and grief felt by the family, loved ones and colleagues of Gao Gao.”

She told Reilly: “Tragically it was a life that was cut short on September 21, 2023, as a result of your actions,” and said that the fatal crash followed a “tragic escalation of a pattern of offending involving motor vehicles.”

Reilly pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court last October.

> “It should have been her right to get home safely”: Driver admits causing death of Hackney cyclist

The offence now carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for offences committed after 28 June 2022, with the change introduced under The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which received Royal Assent on 28 April that year.

Previously, the longest jail term that could be handed down was 14 years, but even in the most egregious cases, that full term was rarely, if ever, imposed.

In this case, the judge took 16 years as her starting point when determining the sentence, deducting one year for the remorse shown by Reilly and the mitigating issues raised by his lawyer, then reduced it by a further 25 per cent due to his guilty plea.

Besides the jail term handed down to Reilly, who will serve two thirds of it before being released on licence, Judge English also banned him from driving for 17 years and six months.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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24 comments

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stevemaiden | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

So seven years in custody for an uninsured driver on bail who fled is a deterrent to others flouting the law, but only around 10% of road deaths are caused by uninsured aka wreckless drivers. The vast majority of people killed are killed by fully compliant drivers, compliant except in that they are driving dangerously or carelessly when they kill. It's these people who need to be given double digit sentences - if the roads are to be made safer. But they are still not. They are getting let off or given token punishments. Pedestrians and cyclists and other drivers will remain the thousand plus anual victims of these antisocial and often narcissistic speeding rable until appropriate deterent sentences are the norm. Let's be clear, they do it because they know there is no punishment when it goes wrong - and plenty of get out clauses, sorry didn't see them, had recent bad news, had a hard upbringing.

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chrisonabike replied to stevemaiden | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I find this point (e.g. relative devastation by wrong'uns / otherwise faultless drivers) interesting.  Do you have a source for that percentage?

(The fact that likely lots of the killing and maiming is happening because careful, considerate people are also humans - with systematic flaws - is a good argument for moving towards a "sustainable safety" approach to transport.  Of course there are those who'd view that the other way: shrug and just say "so deaths are sad but inevitable - you'll never make it completely safe, because humans"...)

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neilmck | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

He was driving in the rain at 50mph on a 20mph road with his father sitting next to him. What was his father doing? What kind of passenger (particularly the father) allows a driver to act like that? His father deserves jail time as well.

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marmotte27 | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Should have been at least 150 years, given that Charlie Alliston was jailed 18 months, and a motorist is at least 100 times more dangerous.

That, or C.A. should have got 40 days.

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xtrand | 3 weeks ago
11 likes

Glad someone got sent away for killing a cyclist. However, he probably only got sent away for speeding and driving without insurance. 

Does he even need to retake his driving license?

Clifford Rennie, 62, of Wantage Road in Wallingford killed two cyclists and as usual, received a suspended sentence only. How can killing two people be deemed to be the same offence (careless driving) as using a mobile phone whilst driving (without killing anyone)?

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eburtthebike replied to xtrand | 3 weeks ago
2 likes
xtrand wrote:

Clifford Rennie, 62, of Wantage Road in Wallingford killed two cyclists and as usual, received a suspended sentence only. How can killing two people  cyclists be deemed to be the same offence (careless driving) as using a mobile phone whilst driving (without killing anyone)?

FTFY.

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brooksby | 3 weeks ago
14 likes
Quote:

He said that the father of six suffered from mental health issues, and that it was likely that he suffered from PTSD after almost being killed in a stabbing four years ago, which may have caused a panic attack while he was driving.

Then he shouldn't have been driving.  At all.  

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 3 weeks ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:
Quote:

He said that the father of six suffered from mental health issues, and that it was likely that he suffered from PTSD after almost being killed in a stabbing four years ago, which may have caused a panic attack while he was driving.

Then he shouldn't have been driving.  At all.  

Well that's just cruel and unusual punishment on top of him being a victim*...

* We don't know the circumstances that lead to him getting stabbed back when.

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stevemaiden replied to chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

I'd assume given that he was generally lawless that it was related to his chosen lifestyle. Tens of thousands of people live through trauma yet don't dive at 50mph in 20mph zones. They also insure their cars.

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Eton Rifle replied to chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

I strongly suspect that, given his callous behaviour in killing a cyclist and fleeing the scene, it was due to him being a cunt.

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IanMK replied to brooksby | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

He should certainly have told the DVLA, who should then monitor his mental health to ensure that he is fit to hold a license. If he is prone to panic attacks then I would say he shouldn't be.

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mitsky | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Still a lenient sentence given all the factors involved and it's own previous convictions.

Another example of where the criminal must lose their taste buds and libido.
Anything else will not be a deterrant for others.

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Bungle_52 | 3 weeks ago
22 likes

From the article :

"Before passing sentence, Judge English said: “There is nothing I can say (, and no sentence that I can pass,) that can possibly assuage the enormous impact and grief felt by the family, loved ones and colleagues of Gao Gao.”"

Yes there is, and you said it.

And : "Judge English also banned him from driving for 17 years and six months."

Now that's more like it.

Also well done to the police for finally charging someone with dangerous driving instead of treating the killing of cyclists as merely careless.

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mitsky replied to Bungle_52 | 3 weeks ago
8 likes

Given it has past convictions and in this case was driving the vehicle without insurance, I doubt the ban will have any effect.

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chrisonabike replied to mitsky | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Absolutely.  Bans are only effective if they're enforced.  That requires either some way of physically stopping the banned* or a) a good chance of being detected and b) a consequential punishment.  (a) appears lacking currently and (b) certainly is - currently it seems to be "ignore the ban and ... we'll ban you some more!"

* e.g. them being in prison!  Tagging and monitoring or vehicles requiring licences (with chips) to be checked to drive has been suggested.  Not so sure about the effectiveness of that as there are normally reasonable objections or edge cases (but would this stop someone getting a lift/ride a bus?) and/or people find ways round ("borrow" a valid licence).

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Bungle_52 replied to mitsky | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

It may still have a deterrent effect for other drivers who still have something to lose. Every little helps.

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Morgoth985 replied to Bungle_52 | 3 weeks ago
8 likes

Yet again this "no sentence will bring them back" bollocks.  The state prosecutes on behalf of us all, not on behalf of the victim.  Can't be bothered to explain it again I've done it so many times.  

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mctrials23 replied to Morgoth985 | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

Its only bollocks if it affects their sentencing. Far too often its used as an excuse to dole out a sub standard punishment under the guise that no punishment would change the outcome so why bother with any really. 

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Morgoth985 replied to mctrials23 | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

That's my point 

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Capt Sisko | 3 weeks ago
11 likes

Whilst we're all going to say well done Judge, good outcome, a decent sentence for once and hopefully that'll send out a message, I've just typed the perpetrator’s name into Google and the HateMail and Evening Standard aside, there’s barely a mention of him and this incident in any of the other national press.

What the search did throw up was that the very same Martin Reiley was sentcenced to four and a half years in jail in June '22, according to the Daily Record "who terrorised several women in violent attacks."

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/in-your-area/lanarkshire/lanarkshire-man-w...

I may have jumped the gun here and we've got two different Martin Reilly's out there. Apologies if I've missled anyone.

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Rendel Harris replied to Capt Sisko | 3 weeks ago
7 likes

That's astonishing, I know offenders don't generally serve the full term to which they are sentenced but if he was sentenced to 54 months imprisonment in June 2022 how on earth was he free to kill someone in September 2023? He should surely have been in jail at least until June 2024. I hope Gao Gao's family will be asking questions of the authorities as to why he was released so early.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Capt Sisko | 3 weeks ago
3 likes
Capt Sisko wrote:

What the search did throw up was that the very same Martin Reiley was sentcenced to four and a half years in jail in June '22, according to the Daily Record "who terrorised several women in violent attacks."

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/in-your-area/lanarkshire/lanarkshire-man-w...

Very unlikely thats the same guy.  Photos arent particularly similar.  Addresses at opposite ends of the country.  Its a fairly common name, one is presumably in Scottish Clink, the other spending his first couple of nights in a Southern Clink.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

On reflection you may be right there, the Hackney Gazette has him aged 29 on October 24, 2023, whilst the Daily Record in Scotland has him aged 29 on May 22, 2022, so probably (and hopefully) just a coincidence.

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Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
23 likes

At last. Can Judge Caroline please be invited to set up a dedicated court for trying offences against cyclists, or at least can she be asked to run a training course for other judges about how to apply the law properly?

RIP Gao Gao.

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